The corona crisis has hit the catering and hotel industries hard. Many conditions had to be met. And then lockdowns made it even more difficult for these industries to survive.
With this article I would like to show various possibilities for ways out of the crisis. So that these important industries, which make our lives more pleasant and beautiful, can also be there for us in the future.
I originally gathered many of the following ideas for another project. They are intended to serve as inspiration and do not claim to be complete. If I can only help one catering establishment with this, it would be worth the effort. I wish all restaurateurs good luck!
Here I would like to address a few basic things that are important for the success of a company. If you have the feeling that everything is right in your company in this regard, you are of course welcome to skip this chapter.
But sometimes it is worth taking a step or two backwards. And to think about these basic things like your why, the target audience and the positioning of your place.
That is probably the basis of all action and a fundamental question. Why am I doing all this? What drives me?
In everyday life you may sometimes lose sight of your why. If that’s the case with you right now, take a few minutes and listen inside. Ask yourself what the bigger picture is behind your daily actions. Do you have a big goal, a vision? What do you want to achieve with your company?
Your guests will feel whether you stand behind your cause with passion and whole heart. And your why is the basis for everything else in your company. It influences the target group, the positioning and much more.
What is my attitude? Am I solution-oriented, open to new ideas and ready for change? Or do I always look to others to blame, keep complaining and bury my head in the sand?
Ultimately, it always depends on the way things are viewed. Every crisis also harbors opportunities. Everything negative also has a positive side. As I said, it depends on the perspective and what I focus on. Do I always look at the problems or do I focus on the solutions? Unfortunately, during our school days we were trained to focus on the negative. Because what did your teachers focus on most of the time? They always looked at the mistakes.
It is worth considering which mindset you currently have and which one you would like to have. You can train to see the good in things and to recognize opportunities and solutions.
As mentioned at the beginning, I primarily want to give you food for thought and ideas. If you want to delve into topics like mindset or the why, you will find many articles and videos on the Internet. In addition, many books have been written on these subjects.
That is also an important issue. And I know from my own experience that it is often neglected.
Do you know who your shop is for or which people you want to have in your shop? If not, your store will also have difficulties to get people to visit. One thing is clear. You can never please everyone.
It is about the definition of a group of people with the same problem, need or bottleneck. The offer of your restaurant solves this problem, satisfies needs and removes this bottleneck.
An example would be that you offer healthy food. Your target group are people who have health deficits or who want to eat healthily.
The definition of your target group is extremely important for your marketing activities. It determines where you are going to find them most likely.
Positioning, concept and trends
This gives you the opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition and to stand out from the crowd. A term that appears in this context is the USP (unique selling proposition). What makes your restaurant unique?
The example of the pizzeria comes to mind. There’s a lot of them in every city. How can a pizzeria stand out from the rest? Do they have the biggest pizza, the thinnest crust or the best tomato sauce? Or are there other things, like a special ambience, is there vegan pizza or gluten-free?
When developing the concept, it is important to keep an eye on the target group as well as the feasibility and trends. You will get an overview of the latter right away. The concept has to be consistent and suit you.
I think it is particularly important to give the guest a nice experience. It starts with how you welcome your guests, continues with caring, giving recommendations to them and ends with a warm farewell. When the guest feels comfortable, welcome and cared for, he’ll come back. At least in Berlin you can stand out from the competition with friendliness alone. 🙂
Beyond food, plant based food, vegan or vegetarian, uncompromisingly vegan and regional
Growing your own ingredients in the restaurant or in the associated garden
Craft beer, craft bread etc.
Personal advice and a trusting atmosphere
Solo dining – People are also more likely to eat alone
Delivery service boom, also high quality dishes for take-away sales
Breakfast to go and breakfast all day
Healthy food – bowls, superfoods etc – without flavor enhancers…
Personalization of the meal, ie everyone creates their dream dish from given ingredients
Retro food, ie classics or dishes from grandma’s kitchen
Social business, for example integrating people with disabilities or refugees
I would like to list the following mega trend separately and list several aspects from it.
is a plastic-free shop. Here you have an even larger selection of sustainable products than with bambusliebe. Here you will find, for example, scouring sponges, dish brushes and much more.
You have already read that dealing with your staff is a sustainability aspect. But it is much more important for you and your restaurant that your staff fits you. Ideally, your staff has the same values as you. It has to match the positioning.
A question you can ask yourself: Does my staff have the same needs as my target group or does it come from my target group? If so, the chances are high that it is motivated. It’s behind your project. In other words, ideally your employees work for the cause and not for money.
2. Marketing and communication
I am not a marketing expert, so there is no guarantee that the marketing and communication resources are complete. Nevertheless these are important stepping stones to ways out of the crisis.
What do I want to achieve?
I think this point is obvious. Before I start, I have to think about what goal I am pursuing with the communication. The communication medium/media which is/are most suitable is derived from this.
For example, if I want to keep my regular customers up to date with news, a newsletter or Facebook is well suited. More on this in the following sections.
In order to ensure a consistent appearance both offline and online, you should definitely think about your corporate design: colors, fonts, logo.
Some love it, others hate it. The topic of social media divides the minds. Nevertheless, nowadays it is almost essential to be active here. There is hardly a place that is not represented on Facebook or Instagram.
The main thing here is to pay attention to where your target group is most often. Facebook is more popular with the elderly, while Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok are popular with a younger audience.
With these media, it should be noted that your posts receive very brief attention. They disappear from the users’ feed quite quickly. Of course, they remain visible in the profile for as long as you want. These media are therefore intended for short-term information. You can use it to publish your daily specials and beautiful pictures of your shop and your dishes.
Via social media you can stay in the memory of your guests. If they occasionally see a post from your store, they’ll know it’s still there. They might even come up with the idea to stop by again or to order something.
Advertising on social media
The social networks are also suitable for actively promoting your restaurant. There is the free version via the profile or your feed. This is primarily used to reach your followers. Other people can also be reached on Instagram by using hashtags. If you want to win new customers, it is a good idea to run paid advertising. Nowadays, you can find your target group very precisely. On Facebook, for example, you can precisely filter by region, age, gender, occupation and countless other criteria. It will probably take a few attempts to get exactly what you want. The whole thing starts with amounts well under 50 euros per campaign.
If you don’t want to take care of social media yourself, there are numerous social media managers on the market. They professionally take care of company accounts. But various online tools also make work easier. For example, you can use Facebook Business for Facebook and Instagram to create posts. These can then be published automatically at the desired time. So you can create and schedule multiple posts at once and don’t have to take care of them every day.
One would think that this is a matter of course nowadays. But I experience again and again that restaurants have no homepage or that they tend to neglected it. A good website is more important than ever today.
You may be wondering what you need a homepage for. Of course, that has a lot to do with your target group. If it cannot do anything with the functions on your website, there is obviously no point in investing energy in it.
You also should not look at the homepage in isolation. As we will see later in the solutions, it often plays a decisive role in taking a company to the next level. In addition to being used as an electronic business card and means of communication, e.g. for opening times, menu items, etc. It can also serve as an online shop or ordering system.
It is very important – especially in times of frequent changes – to keep the page up to date. If your restaurant has different opening times due to a lockdown, company vacation or similar, this must be directly visible on the home page.
As for the technical side, I have to refer you to other sources. How to create a website would go beyond the scope here. You can find a lot about it on YouTube, for example. There are free tutorials on almost all subjects.
The newsletter is an inexpensive way to stay in touch with your guests. Nevertheless, you should use it sparingly. I don’t know about you, but my e-mail inbox is always overflowing. And even if newsletters are not read as often these days, they do not fail to have an impact. There is always someone for whom your newsletter arrives at the right time.
How can you use your newsletter?
It serves as an information and advertising medium. For example, you can inform your guests about promotions, new opening times, new employees, etc. And you can use them to distribute vouchers, make competitions or conduct a survey. Your creativity knows no limits.
How can you build your email list?
The most obvious thing, of course, is to speak to your guests in the restaurant about it. You give them the opportunity to enter their name and email address in a list. Next, you can promote it on your website. To create a greater incentive for people to sign up, you can wave a reward. This can be, for example, a voucher for a drink or a discount.
A blog is something more special and only interesting for certain companies. These are articles on specific topics that are published on the website. They should offer added value for the guests. A blog can basically be integrated into any website.
For example, if your restaurant specializes in sustainability, you could report on relevant topics. These can be things that you have implemented in your local or that are used by your suppliers.
How do I communicate with whom? What communication channels are there? And what is especially true in times of crisis? I will take up some of the previous points again.
Reputation management is only possible if you maintain contact, moderate and are available. As already described via social media, newsletters, of course the website and not forgetting telephone and e-mail.
Share interesting content with regular customers via blog articles.
Communicate openly with the guest. For example, list the suppliers in the menu, but also if something was not available and was otherwise obtained.
Communicate courageously and actively
Promote new offers in a large and striking way on the window
In terms of customer communication, Facebook ranks ahead of Instagram and your own website.
Subject “Findability on the Internet”: Will my place be displayed first in Google searches? Can my store be found on Google Maps?
Especially during a lockdown:
Remain in the mind of customers despite the closure. Example: Cooking live on Instagram during quarantine.
Open communication with your suppliers and your landlord.
Big cities now have their own social media channels where you can find out which restaurants are offering what (support your local)
Massively promote delivery and collection service and other new services so that at least this income is preserved!
3. Ways out of the crisis – possible solutions
I hope the previous chapters have given you some ideas and got you thinking. In the following sections you will learn numerous ideas that I have collected to show you ways out of the crisis. Some things will be known to you, others new. Let your creativity run free and use the following points as food for thought. Maybe it makes sense for you to involve your team in the process.
I look forward to comments with further ideas and your feedback. If I could help you a little bit, I would be happy.
Strategies out of the crisis
It’s about putting your business on a broader footing. How can you grow your business? It is important to go new ways, to constantly rethink gastronomy and to tap into undiscovered groups of guests.
Individuality and uniqueness have advantages over uniformity and thus have a future.
It is worth considering whether the menu should not be reduced. Restaurateurs have to work more creatively with simple but high-quality products in order to be more economical.
Design the menu modularly: offer ideally tailored to the length of stay and the occasion of consumption
Transparency with regard to the profitability of individual areas, products, etc. The gastronomy lives above all from creative people who give their guests a great time with incredible commitment. As a rule, entrepreneurial activity tends to take a back seat.
Optimized menu, keep menu narrow
A sharper profile, lower costs, more sales and an attractive offer for guests
Analyze racers and bums
Cooperation with online delivery services
Consumption vouchers (eg via “pay now eat later“). Or give the guest a voucher for the next take-away order after dinner and vice versa.
Simplify the payment process for customers – for example, by introducing round amounts or paying invoices via online payment services such as PayPal.
Development of new sales channels: Implementation of your own online shop, followed by “other online marketplaces”.
Voluntary service: What works in agriculture … for example strawberries, asparagus. Employees who do a “voluntary social year”.
Online business comes into focus – that can definitely bring you closer to the customer. Communication in the newsletter or on social media, sharing your personal fate. Include a handwritten letter of thanks with the order.
Think about strong marketing that can be developed and promoted online now. Processing of the corporate design. Visibility, online presence, social media (see marketing and communication)
Taking important solidarity out of the crisis into the future – with guests, suppliers, other restaurateurs.
We need a union from the producer to the guest. And gastronomy can be the link through transparency.
Last but not least: the guests have to change too. It is important to make it clear to them again why they actually go out to eat.
An experience that you don’t have at home.
Treat yourself to something. Aperitif, digestif, two or three courses and why not eat two desserts?!
Not being petty towards the staff – goodwill counts.
Use the space optimally
It’s not about fulfilling official requirements and how to best set up the tables, but how you can get more sales out of the space.
Sublease space during rest days or times
To someone who teaches cooking classes
To food manufacturers
Winterize outdoor areas
Use of the outdoor area for events or street sales
Mulled wine stand, tea, coffee, cocktails to go
Waffles, crêpes, ice cream etc.
Rental of the outdoor area
You may be able to get sponsors on board to finance structural measures. Your beverage supplier might cover some or all of the costs. Many things can also be rented and you don’t have to buy them right away.
Expand the range with new products
Here I often heard the word “grocerant”. A mixture of the words “grocery” and “restaurant”. So it means to combine a restaurant and a grocery store or deli. The possibilities are extremely diverse.
Homemade food such as jams, chutneys, sauces or ready-made dishes in jars or vacuum bags to take away. (see also delivery service / take away business)
Food from suppliers: beverages, ingredients, etc.
Ingredient boxes with a recipe to cook yourself
Products from cooperation partners. What do the shops of friends and acquaintances or in the neighborhood offer? This can also be non-food products such as kitchen utensils, decorative items, etc.
Fruit and vegetable boxes from regional farmers that can be picked up, for example, once a week if ordered in advance. This also serves to strengthen regional structures.
For many guests it is an enrichment if they can purchase certain products processed or used in the restaurant (fish, meat, vegetables, cheese, etc.) in good quality. This also applies to ready-made components such as sauces, stocks, dressings or dips. Most households seldom have all of the raw materials necessary for their production.
Expand the offer with new services
How can you bring the food to the people or the people to eat? In addition, in this chapter you will get food for thought in the direction of new services and how you can expand your offer.
Offer cooking classes: If permitted, these can be held offline in your store. Otherwise, this can also be done online either using recorded videos or live via video conference.
Etiquette for children (how do I behave at the table …). This is similar to the previous point.
Take away concepts: For this, all dishes must be checked for their ability to be delivered in terms of temperature and quality. And then it’s the question: pick up or delivery or both?
Pay attention to suitable transport containers, also with regard to sustainability. Or is it possible for guests to bring their own containers?
Pick-up outside of the opening times, e.g. from cooperation partners or using a machine.
Drive In: Pick up with delivery to the car window
When it comes to delivery service, the first question is: own or third-party?
Should only a certain group of people be supplied? e.g. companies only (lunch)
Out of home offer
Cooking boxes: dishes in the form of ingredients for self-cooking
Homemade foods: cooked and fermented foods, basic sauces, pastes and spreads, oils, soups and sauces in jars, etc. (see also previous chapter)
Ready-to-eat and delivered cold: wraps, sandwiches, salads, bowls and starters. Also as a menu or in the form of the classic cold platter.
Ready-cooked and delivered cold: The dishes are cooked in the restaurant kitchen, then packed (e.g. vacuum bag or jar) and the customer warms it up at home. It may be useful to include cooking instructions here.
Drinks, delivered chilled and ready to drink
Cooperation with one or more other restaurants
Street food snack: for example, scaled-down versions of plate dishes
Food truck (if people can’t come to you, you come to them)
Offer additional services. e.g. a café can also function as a laundromat…
Let your mind wander. It often helps to come up with ideas with other people. Ideas can be picked up and developed further.
Digitize your processes and optimize your business! Far too few restaurateurs are yet using the possibilities of digitization. Reservation systems, online delivery services or the cloud-based cash register system: The corona crisis is just showing how digital tools and services help restaurateurs to know their numbers better and thus to be able to react flexibly. That will be more important than ever in the future. Ultimately, all organizational work routes must be examined to see whether they can be better digitized. You have to see digitization as an opportunity.
What can be digitized?
Prepayment and preorder system: saves time for host and guest. One example of this is the Data Kitchen in Berlin.
a) On the website, linked on Facebook and in the Google Maps entry. Everything has to be kept up to date. Additionally or alternatively, the menu can be photographed and published in Google Maps (mark it as a menu accordingly) and shared on review portals and food platforms. E.g. Mit Vergnügen, Creme Guide, Tripadvisor, happy cow, yelp, foursquare, smunch…
b) In the restaurant via QR code.
Create rosters online.
Digital ordering: Click & Collect, mobile ordering and payment.
Online marketing is the choice of the hour, also because you can calculate the budget precisely and use it.
In addition, there are many free advertising opportunities available on the Internet that, with the appropriate creativity and commitment, lead to success even with a budget of zero euros. You only have to know how. (Already mentioned were social media channels that promote restaurants for free, customers who photograph the food and post it on social media…)
How to create a sensation with gastro advertising without investing a lot of money: Guerrilla Marketing – small and quickly made videos from the kitchen that whet the potential customer’s appetite for culinary specialties.
Video ideas that cost nothing but are often clicked on by potential guests a thousand times
With local gastro mobile phone advertising, continuous, as unusual as possible, FB postings, regular online broadcasts of cool PR ideas and crazy videos, significantly more can be done today to address guests.
Digitization will determine the future. That means not only an online reservation system, but also digital communication with the guest on all possible portals.
Crowdfunding eg startnext campaign from the Berlin restaurant Tulus Lotrek “Cooking for Heroes”
Develop and intensify customer loyalty at various levels through digitization.
Use subsidies: In Germany subsidies for digitization vary depending on the federal state, e.g. Ministry of Economics in the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. Information may also be available from the IHK or DEHOGA.
In the end, all I can say is good luck and may everything eventually turn out well.
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